Lent Daily Devotional: Psalm 51

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Lent Daily Devotionals: Mark 15

Reading: Mark 15
Thoughts by Mother Teresa

How does peace come? Through works of love. Where does it begin? At home. How does it begin? By praying together. For Prayer gives a clean heart and a clean heart can see God. And if you see God in each other, if we have the joy of seeing God in each other, we will love one another. That’s why no color, no religion, no nationality should come between us. For we are all the same children of the same loving hand of God, created for greater things: to love and to be loved. Only we must experience that joy of loving. How do we experience the joy of loving? How do we experience that? By giving until it hurts.

When I was going to Ethiopia, little children came to me. They heard I was going there. And they came. They had come to know from the sisters how much the children are suffering in Ethiopia. And they came and each one gave something, very, very small money. And some, whatever they had, they gave. And a little boy came to me and said “I have nothing, I have no money, I have nothing. But I have this piece of chocolate. And you give that, take that with you and you give it to the children in Ethiopia.” That little child loved with great love, because I think that was the first time that he had a piece of chocolate in his hand. And he gave it. He gave it with joy to be able to share, to remove a little the suffering of someone in far Ethiopia. This is the joy of loving: to give until it hurts. It hurt Jesus to love us, for he died on the cross, to teach us how to love. And this is the way we too must love: until it hurts.

Lent Daily Devotionals: Mark 14

Reading: Mark 14
“Sweet Perfume” by Penelope Goode

Mark 14 tells several stories.

There is the account of Jesus, wracked with sorrow, praying in the garden while His friends are meant to be keeping watch. Three times, they fall short and He finds them sleeping.
Next, the story of Peter, who, having been identified as a disciple after Jesus’ arrest, denies knowing Him. As Jesus prophesied during Passover, this happens not once, but three times.
The most harrowing tale is that of Judas’ betrayal: one of the twelve nearest to Jesus gave Him up for personal gain.

Juxtaposed against these stories, however, is the beautiful act of the woman (known from other Gospel accounts to be Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus) anointing Jesus with sweet perfume, despite protestations of the disciples. It was expensive – an exotic oil from India in a fine alabaster jar, which she broke and poured out over her Lord. She alone, of all the friends around Jesus in this time so near to His death, gives Him something precious without being asked. Seeing a service she could perform, and, seemingly knowing that His time among them was limited, blesses Him with this selfless act.

Father, during this season in which we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice, may we be like this woman, who gave without regard for herself, focused as she was so intently on the One who was giving everything for all of us. May we not sleep or betray, but give to Him that which is precious.

Lent Daily Devotional: Prayer

Christ Has No Body by Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 13

Reading: Mark 13
“Good News for All Time” by Jeff Christian

One day, Jesus and a handful of his disciples sat on a hill just outside the city gates of Jerusalem. That hill just happened to be the Mount of Olives, a place where Jesus would pray, and then go to the cross not long thereafter. But Jesus remained true to the mission, the most important reason he came to live among us, a mission stated multiple times in the Gospel of Mark, not the least of which in Mark 13.

This is the hardest chapter in Mark to understand, mainly because it switches to an ancient form of Jewish storytelling called “Apocalyptic.” Simply put, such storytelling concerned itself with big things, eternal things, things that never end no matter what. Alongside all the talk of glory and the Son of Man riding on the clouds… alongside all the warnings to keep alert and to stay awake during dark and confusing times… alongside all of that is the statement of all statements that drives the story in Mark: “And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.” (Mark 13:10)

The good news.

This is everything to us. Despite all of our confusion and the uncertainty we face every day, we can be sure in Jesus that our work is as clear today as it has ever been. We tell the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. We live that story. We live every day as citizens of the good kingdom of Jesus.

That kingdom will never end.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 12

Reading: Mark 12
A Scandalous Invitation by Richard Foster, from Freedom of Simplicity

When Jesus watched the voluntary offerings made in the temple treasure, he was moved by the sacrificial gift of the poor widow. What was it about her giving that touched him so? Jesus’ comment on that simple act was, “For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living” (Mark 12:44).

Her giving had a certain reckless abandon to it. She evidenced an undivided devotion that fulfilled the command to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, in Mark’s Gospel this story follows closely on the heels of the two great commandments, as if to be a commentary upon them. A simple act, but one that crystallized the Christian witness. Here was a woman free from idolatry to mammon, devoid of greed and avarice. Here was a person in whom extravagant giving exceeded prudent thrift. Here was a widow, helpless and defenseless, who had learned to trust the Father in heaven for her needs day by day, one who sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Dare we follow her lead?

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 11

Reading: Mark 11
“Road Trip to Jerusalem” by Dale Elliott

Have you ever said, “I wish I could be a fly on the wall?” Maybe it is a momentous encounter between special people, but you won’t be there to see it, hear it, or feel it.

A more appealing image: I wish we could have just walked with Jesus.  Walked through the little towns of Galilee, healing the sick, radiating love to disciples and to the “least of these” everywhere.

Or simply join Jesus on the road trip to Jerusalem, climbing uphill to the “most holy place.” (It is only 15 miles from the Dead Sea, dramatically 1,412 feet below sea level. Jerusalem, the high place, is 3,800 feet above sea level. There is no thin O2, but rarefied spiritual air, the place for the once in the lifetime of the universe event.)

With eyes closed, we find our journey actually enters Jerusalem three times just in this chapter.

Why that look on the faces of those readily lending their colt for Jesus to ride into the city? Did they know something? Heard something wonderful about the teacher? Shown something by His Spirit? What is on my face when asked to follow him?

Why a quick look around the city before exiting to Bethany for the night? Do I really look to see what’s before me, and think and pray?

Wow! Jesus can show anger! Profiteers over the faith given by God; there is no tolerance. This is serious. Do I claim God’s approval for choices that really mostly help me and my kind?

And poor fig tree! Just waiting for its productive season. Maybe I have big rationalizations and small faith.

Maybe the road trip wouldn’t be so easy. His look into my eyes, seeing me. Maybe I would need to look deeper inside if He looked at me. Maybe I do. Because He has.

Lent Daily Devotional: Psalm 38

Psalm 38

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.

 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak.
I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 10

Reading: Mark 10
From Lent for Everyone by N.T. Wright

When the young man declares that he’s kept all the commandments since he was little, ‘Jesus looked at him, and loved him’ (verse 21). Jesus gazed at the young man and saw in him a real eagerness, a quick readiness to do whatever it took to be part of God’s new world when it arrived, as arrive it surely would now that Jesus was here. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by such enthusiasm, and Jesus’ heart was anything but stony. But then Jesus dropped the bombshell. One more thing: sell up, give it away, and follow me. ‘Costing not less than everything’ was how T.S. Eliot described the challenge of following Jesus, and that’s what Jesus was asking now. The enthusiasm changed to disappointment like a dark cloud suddenly appearing from nowhere to cover the sun. Off he went.

Stand there with the disciples as they watch, hardly daring to move. What’s he going to say? Shouldn’t he have closed the deal, told the young man to come as he was, and hoped to explain the cost to him more fully as they went on?

ln our mind’s eye we see that gaze swing round the silent, watching group. He’s reading their faces and they his. Then he says something which shocks them as much as his challenge shocked the young man. ‘It’s difficult for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom.’ More amazement. But why? The disciples lived in a world where wealth was seen as an index of God’s blessing. If rich people couldn’t be part of God’s kingdom, then who could?

‘It’s impossible for mortals,’ Jesus said, looking hard at them. Once again we stand silent on the edge of the crowd, open-mouthed, as his level, steady, sad gaze meets theirs. Don’t they get it yet? Haven’t they seen the point? Didn’t they remember the Sermon on the Mount? God’s kingdom doesn’ t work by the ordinary human rules. All things are possible to God, but that’s just as well because what needs to happen isn’t just difficult; it’s impossible. God’s kingdom, and the life of the Age to Come, are all about new creation. You can’t generate them from within the present age.

In the previous scene, we saw Jesus going back behind the Law of Moses to the principles of the original creation. Now we see him going out beyond the Law of Moses (which the young man declares he’s kept all through) to the principles of God’s new creation. God is doing a new thing, and the only way to get there with him is to abandon all pride, all achievement, all status, all possessions. None of them count for a thing.

When God acts he characteristically turns things upside down. The first will be last and the last first.

Daily Lent Devotional: Mark 9

Reading: Mark 9
Thoughts by Dwain Evans

What a remarkable story Mark relates in this text. Paul said to the church at Philippi “though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” And the Jesus that Peter, James and John knew was a man of poverty with no permanent home, who relied on the women who followed him for the food he ate.

This made the miracles he performed even more remarkable. When he calmed the tempest, they said, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him.” They were about to catch a glimpse as they climbed this high mountain by themselves. Suddenly, his clothes became “dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.’ And Moses, the great lawgiver and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets appeared, talking with Jesus.

It was a time to keep quiet, but Peter had a proposal. He was interrupted by a cloud and a voice from the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him.” Moses and Elijah were gone, and they stood there with Jesus alone. Everything was changed. No longer the son of a poor peasant family, but the very Son of God!

And when we read this story, we too are changed!